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When he was quarterbacking BYU and the San Francisco 49ers, Steve Young had moments of recklessness. He sometimes would just pull down the ball and start running. It turned out great more often than not but there also were times when it resulted in injuries that took him out of the game.
Young has been anything but reckless in public. Which makes a recent interview he gave to Bloomberg Businessweek nothing short of stunning.
The story, by Alex Sherman, is headlined "Steve Young is an athlete who's actually good at finance." And the subhead reads "The next time you see him on ESPN, remember: He's probably thinking about private equity."
A lot of the stuff about Young growing up and his football exploits is familiar, but the focus is on his career as one of the managers of the private investment firm he co-owns, HGGC. And it reflects well on Young.
Except for this: "Young says he may have quit ESPN years ago if not for his private equity partners, who like him to keep a high profile. When he works a Monday night game for the network, he spends no more than an hour or two at the stadium preparing his commentary, he says; the rest of the time, he's holed up in HGGC's suite, cramming for deals. Once the game starts, he barely watches the action. A couple of transactions, he notes, even have been agreed to with handshakes in the suites.
"My wife hates football, and my kids don't really care," Young says. "I see myself as a deal guy first. I've put football behind me."
That seems … reckless.
No, there's nothing wrong with focusing on finance … as long as you make viewers believe your focus is football. Which Young did … until this interview was published. Now he's trying to unsay the things he said. He sent this comment to Bloomberg, which added it to the bottom of the story:
"I have worked hard to build an expertise in two different fields, and I am proud of that. I have built one over the course of 35 years as a football player and analyst. The other, in private equity, I've established over 18 years. I'm focused on being excellent at both and without sacrificing one for the other. Staying connected to the game and working for ESPN are very meaningful to me. In no way did I intend to suggest otherwise."
You'll note that he didn't claim he was misquoted or argue with the substance of the story. Although he did go on Bloomberg TV and complain about "a little disservice in the article about my passion ... for football. I mean, the truth is I spend an inordinate amount of time in the fall preparing for my job."
And he didn't want anyone who reads the story to "misconstrue my passion and focus for doing a great job" at ESPN.
His bosses at ESPN also clearly want this to go away. In a statement to the Sporting News, ESPN senior vice president Stephanie Druly said Young "remains committed to his job at ESPN. His producers and colleagues have noted his work ethic internally, his level of preparation and the effort he brings each week."
And it's not like Young has been inundated with criticism for not being prepared when he appears on ESPN. He's good at TV.
Still, Young didn't deny saying the things he said.
Here's betting he does even fewer interviews in the future.
Scott D. Pierce covers TV for The Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.